Wagner's Great-granddaughter Cancels Israel Trip Week Before Arrival

Katharina Wagner had been expected to announce that Israel Chamber Orchestra is invited to open annual Wagner festival next July.

The great-granddaughter of composer Richard Wagner, Katharina Wagner, has canceled a visit to Israel next week, fearing criticism in Israel and abroad. Katharina Wagner is the head of the annual Wagner festival in Bayreuth, which was founded by the composer in 1876.

Wagner's work has long been taboo in Israel due to his anti-Semitism and his status as a favorite of Adolf Hitler.

Katharina Wagner

Katharina Wagner's visit to Israel has been kept secret for the past year, and tensions surrounding the trip have been high. Wagner had planned to call a press conference on October 13, during which was to extend an invitation to the Israel Chamber Orchestra to open the Wagner festival next July. She had planned to precede the announcement of the invitation with comments from German Chancellor Angela Merkel in honor of the occasion.

Reports of the visit, however, were leaked in the Israeli press, and soon reached the media in Germany, Austria and around the world. Reactions to the news were mixed: Austrian newspaper Der Standard quoted Israeli journalist and Holocaust survivor Noah Klieger as saying that such a step would be seen as "capitulation" after years of boycotting Wagner's work.

In light of the leaks regarding the invitation, the organizers of the festival held an emergency meeting in Bayreuth on Tuesday night, during which the decision was taken to cancel Wagner's visit to Israel; it seems unlikely that this decision will be reversed, barring a last-minute development.

The ties with the Bayreuth festival were established by the new director of the Israel Chamber Orchestra, Austrian Jewish conductor Roberto Paternostro, who is friends with Katharina Wagner.

In an interview with Haaretz, Paternostro explained that the two thought up the idea in Frankfurt a year ago, as an act of reconciliation between the Wagner family and Israel.